Evil Dead And Other Remakes



Over the course of history we have had to suffer through a multitude of remakes with more on the way. It’s a fact of life that Hollywood wants to capitalize on a name. That’s just how it goes. How many times have seen the same Shakespeare story put on film even though there are other equally good Shakespeare plays that never get made? Why? Because people recognize the names of Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet.

Horror films get hit harder than any other genre because, as horror fans, we get excited that someone is actually releasing a horror movie in theaters. So we go and immediately take to the internet whining and complaining about the latest remake or sequel and how much the studio/director/star ruined your memories. But we go. Studios know this. And what do studios care about most? It’s not the fans. It’s profit. So we get remakes and a sequel a year to the likes of Saw or Paranormal Activity not because we demand it but because they know we’ll watch it. Hell, I have seen every Children Of The Corn and Hellraiser movie, not because I like them but because they were there. That’s what studios count on. Being a genre fan is frustrating and rewarding all at once.

Thirty one years ago an established horror and science fiction filmmaker set out to make his first remake before they became the trendy thing to do in Hollywood. It was one of the only films in that thirty one years to do it right. The movie was The Thing, the filmmaker John Carpenter. He was already moving toward legendary statud thanks to Assault On Precinct 13, Halloween, The Fog and Escape From New York. At the time this seemed like a bad career choice. Why make someone else’s film when you could do something original? But he believed in the movie and felt it had something to say just in the same way that the remake of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers did just a few years earlier. And, like Invasion, he got it right. Since then we have seen nearly all his early masterwork remade. None match what he did with the originals. There have also been a slew of other remakes of famous horror franchises with varying degrees of success – A Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday The 13th, Prom Night, The Hills Have Eyes. The list goes on and grows by the day.
One movie that many prayed for a sequel to and feared a remake of was Evil Dead. This was the movie that launched director Sam Raimi, producer Rob Tapert and star Bruce Campbell. It mixed horror and humor seemlessly as well giving us the most innovative low budget look any horror movie ever could. For those reasons fans, myself included, feared that someone would one day ruin the franchise for us with a remake that insulted us all. I’m glad I was wrong.

The movie started in a very different way than the original. It opened with a woman, bloody and beaten, trying to escape through the woods when something bad happens. Then it cuts to introducing us to the the cast twenty-something pretty people that one expects from a horror movie. But that’s where the movie stops being like your typical “Dead Teenager Movie” (if could steal a phrase from the late, great Roger Ebert). Fede Alvarez had a very clear vision of maing a movie that was not only faithful to the Evil Dead fans but also a balls out horror film that was original and gory fun.

It’s hard to get a remake right because people feel all at once beholden to the original material and have a strong desire to explain things. Take Halloween. Rob Zombie felt that he had to keep the genreal story intact while explaining the childhood of Michael Myers. A Nightmare On Elm Street did a similar thing with giving more back story on Freddy right from the start. This used to be something that wasn’t given till you were three sequels deep in the 80’s. And there’s a reason for that. You need to go in to the first film with the intention of scaring the living shit out of your audience. When you begin to explain the evil away the audience begins to sympathize with the killer. That is like putting the nail in the coffin before the movie is even released. Fede Alvarez knew better. He didn’t go into detail about where the Necronomicon came from or how it gained its power. It was just evil and there were people stupid enough to not heed the warnings and read from it anyway.

The movie got more right than it got wrong. It was smart enough to play with what we expect by keeping us guessing on who would live and who would die. The beats pulled from the previous Evil Dead movies were given a nice twist that kept me guessing. And Jane Levy was truly amazing as Mia. She went from frail to frightened to posessed to all out evil with what seemed to be such effortless ease. For her alone the movie is worth watching. But all the star aligned just right for this film. The cast, the director, the script – everything was spot on. Alvarez took just enough from Raimi’s style to make it feel like an Evil Dead movie while bringing in his own crazy style that fit so well for the movie. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Also, stay after the credits for a little surprise.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars on this one. It is what horror remakes should aspire to – a movie that doesn’t need to be defined by the fact that it’s a remake.


I Have Come Here To Chew Bubble Gum And Review “They Live”…And I’m All Out Of Bubble Gum

Throughout the 1980’s John Carpenter made his best movies. The Thing, Escape From New York, Big Trouble In Little China and Starman being among them. But none of them are quite like They Live.

I remember the first time I saw this movie. It was on a local television station in the 80’s. They would show cheesy movies every Saturday afternoon. I found myself engrossed in its stupidity. I thought the acting was terrible, the story was weak, and the dialogue was laughable. Bit something happened after it was over. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

John Carpenter did something absolutely brilliant with this movie. He crafted a very smart film in a very stupid package. It almost seems like even that was a commentary on our society, like he believed that Americans didn’t want smart movies anymore so he made look as dumb as possible.

The story is a simple one. The world’s class system is becoming more and more divided. More people are out of work and the rich get richer. Former pro wrestler Roddy Piper discovers that aliens are behind everything when he puts on a pair of sunglasses that show him the world for what it really is. Then it is up to him to stop it.

Upon its initial release They Live was a disappointment at the box office. It was met with poor reviews and nearly forgotten…until television and home video made it into a cult classic. In fact, I would put in my all time top 5 John Carpenter movies. The list would probably go as follows – 1) The Thing 2) Halloween 3) Escape From New York 4) They Live and 5) In The Mouth Of Madness.

What makes this movie great is Carpenter’s disdain for authority and his inabilty to take things at face value. It was there in most of his work in the 80’s. He took a bad premise and turned it into a movie that is a social commentary about commercialism, ignorance, politics, and racism. It really was a very smart film.

If you have never seen this movie you need to. If you have and didn’t look past its cheesy exterior you owe it to yourself to watch it again. This is a great movie with a message that is just as important today as it was nearly 30 years ago.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

80’s Movie Review – Escape From New York

John Carpenter and Kurt Russell together is a wonderful combination. I love The Thing and Big Trouble In Little China. I even like Russell’s portrayal of Elvis in the barely remembered made for TV movie of the same name directed by Carpenter. But Escape From New York holds a soft spot in my heart.

I have always loved the strong brooding anti-hero in movies. Add an eye patch and it somehow becomes even cooler. The story is simple – a former war hero turned master criminal is forced to go into New York, now a maximum security prison wasteland, to rescue the president after his plane goes down.

Over the course of the film Snake Plisskin has to find the president on a time limit while fighting his way through the scum of the city with help from Ernest Borgnine, Harry Dean Stanton and Adrienne Barbeau. Snake us put to the test several times physically when he meets Isaac Hayes as The Duke and his henchmen.

The movie is goofy and dated. The thing that makes this movie special, as with many Carpenter films, is the social and political commentary of it all. His anti-establishment views are all over this film. That, coupled with the great performances of the previously mentioned cast and Donald Pleasance as the President, makes this movie a true classic. And the use of the theme from American Bandstand was brilliant.

This movie deserves to be remembered AND NEVER REMADE! I give it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.